From depression to dementia, numerous other health conditions are connected to your hearing health. Here are just a few of the ways your hearing is linked to your health.
1. Diabetes Affects Your Hearing
A widely-cited study that observed over 5,000 adults determined that people who had been diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to suffer mild or worse hearing loss when tested with low- or mid-frequency sounds. With high-frequency sounds, hearing loss was not as severe but was also more likely. The researchers also found that subjects who were pre-diabetic, put simply, those who have blood sugar levels that are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes were 30 percent more likely to have hearing impairment than those with normal blood sugar levels. A more recent meta-study revealed that the link between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even when controlling for other variables.
So it’s fairly well recognized that diabetes is linked to an increased risk of hearing loss. But why would diabetes put you at a higher danger of experiencing hearing impairment? Science is at somewhat of a loss here. A whole range of health concerns have been connected to diabetes, including damage to the limbs, eyes, and kidneys. It’s feasible that diabetes has a similar damaging affect on the blood vessels of the inner ear. But management of your general health may also be a relevant possibility. A study that looked at military veterans underscored the connection between hearing impairment and diabetes, but specifically, it revealed that those with unchecked diabetes, essentially, people who are not monitoring their blood sugar or otherwise treating the disease, suffered worse consequences. It’s important to have a doctor test your blood sugar if you believe you may have undiagnosed diabetes or are pre-diabetic.
2. High Blood Pressure Can Damage Your Ears
Multiple studies have demonstrated that hearing loss is associated with high blood pressure, and some have found that high blood pressure may actually speed up age-related hearing loss. Even when adjusting for variables such as whether you smoke or your level of noise exposure, the results are consistent. Gender appears to be the only variable that matters: Males with high blood pressure are at a greater danger of hearing loss.
The circulatory system and the ears have a direct relationship: Two of your body’s main arteries run right past your ears in addition to the presence of tiny blood vessels in your ears. This is one reason why people who have high blood pressure often experience tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is actually their own blood pumping. Because you can hear your own pulse with this kind of tinnitus, it’s called pulsatile tinnitus. The foremost theory why high blood pressure would accelerate hearing loss is that high blood pressure can result in physical harm to your ears. There’s more force with every heartbeat if the heart is pumping harder. That could potentially injure the smaller blood arteries inside your ears. Both medical intervention and lifestyle changes can be used to help manage high blood pressure. But you should make an appointment for a hearing exam if you think you are experiencing any amount of hearing loss.
3. Dementia And Hearing Impairment
Hearing loss may put you at a higher risk of dementia. Research from Johns Hopkins University that observed nearly 2,000 people over the course of six years found that the chance of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with just mild hearing loss (about 25 dB). Another study by the same researchers, which followed subjects over more than 10 years, found that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely that he or she would develop dementia. These studies also demonstrated that Alzheimer’s had a similar link to hearing loss. Based on these findings, moderate hearing loss puts you at 3X the risk of somebody without hearing loss. Severe hearing loss puts you at nearly 4x the risk.
The bottom line is, if you’re suffering from hearing loss, you need to get it evaluated and treated. Your health depends on it.